Friday, March 14, 2003

Jesus One on One

This is the fifth post in a series that examines Jesus' encounters with individuals and what they reveal. To start at the beginning, click here.

The woman who found the reward of love's guided choices.

This episode requires some identifying background. Mary Magdalene first appears in Luke's gospel:

Sometime afterward he went on through towns and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and disabilities: Mary (called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Cuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their own resources. (Luke 8:1-3, The Net Bible)

May Magdalene was a follower and financial supporter of Jesus and His ministry. This brief paragraph comes immediately after Luke's account of the woman who cried over Jesus' feet, wiping them dry with her hair, and anointing them with oil. I like to think that that woman and Mary Magdalene are one and the same. The woman in chapter seven was touched deeply by Jesus' love and had financial means. It is not unreasonable to imagine that she continued as a disciple.

Of the remaining eleven disciples, only John was at Jesus' execution. However, the women who followed Jesus were there. In the following excerpt from Matthew's gospel, notice Mary Magdalene:

Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Now when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut in the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. (Now Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there, opposite the tomb.) (Matthew 27:55-61)

John's gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene drew close to the cross.

Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)

Mary Magdalene, who knew where the tomb was because she had followed Joseph, was one of the first to return after the Sabbath:

Now very early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been moved away from the entrance. So she went running to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Then Peter and the other disciple set out to go to the tomb. (John 20:1-3)

As far as is recorded, Mary Magdalene did no great things. But she loved Jesus enough to be there every step of the way through His death and burial. Of course, she was joined by other women. But it was she who hung around the empty tomb when all the others left. This gave her the most unique gift of all:

So the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she bent down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 

They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” 

Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” 

Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.”

 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” 

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 

Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 

Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her. (John 20:10-18)

Mary was the first to see Jesus alive after His resurrection! What can we make of this?

Who was more faithful than she was during this episode in Jesus' life?

  • She had supported Him financially.
  • She was at His execution and was among those who approached the cross.
  • She was there when He was buried.
  • She was the first one there on Sunday morning.
  • She was the only one who stuck around.

When I think of the nature of worship, my thoughts often turn to the woman who washed Jesus' feet, and Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, who sat at Jesus' feet, and Mary Magdalene hanging around when all seemed lost. Each of these three incidents demonstrate a heart abandoned to self and focused on Him with no regard for propriety.

Monday: Common Themes and Important Differences

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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